Saturday, December 29, 2007
Each night before my friend ends her day, she records her happiest moment from the day, and her crappiest moment. Happiest because she wants to focus on the good, and crappiest because she wants to keep things in perspective and realize how good her life really is.
Don't we all have that problem, of being in the heat of the moment and blowing our momentary trivial problems way out of proportion? Then when you look back on it later, it really wasn't that big of a deal. I know I have a tendency to do that.
For example, the happiest thing that happened to me today, was I got to spend a relaxing day at home with my husband. No "to do" list. No errands to run. No obligations except to relax. The crappiest thing that happened...I woke up with a sinus headache. Nothing that couldn't be remedied with a little Advil. All in all, it was a good day.
May you all have the happiest of new years and may 2008 hold an abundance of blessings for you! Drop me a comment and let me know what your happiest/crappiest moments of the day were, or let me know if you already keep a journal (prayer journal, gratitude journal, diary, etc.) What is it like to go back and read over things from a few months ago? What do you learn?
Monday, December 24, 2007
O God our loving Father,
help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and the worship of the wise men.
May Christmas morning make us happy to be Thy children
and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven,
for Jesus' sake, Amen.
-- Robert Louis Stevenson
Friday, December 14, 2007
Coraline by Neil Gaiman (5 Stars)
Remember the childhood days of being painfully bored and cooped up at home during the summer break? Ever wished you could get away to someplace where everyone understood you? Ever got so annoyed with your parents you wish you had different ones? The main character, Coraline, wishes those very things and we get to see what happens when they all come true. A false door in her new house opens up onto an parallel world, where everything is just perfect…too perfect. The story is equal parts fairy tale and horror, with a dash of “Alice in Wonderland” thrown in for good measure. I loved it and devoured every single word. It’s a haunting story and if you read it, I guarantee, you will never look at buttons the same way, ever again.
The Three Signs of a Miserable Job (A Fable for Managers and Their Employees) by Patrick Lencioni (5 Stars)
I’m not sure how to classify this book. It’s an educational, business/career advice type book, but the majority of the book is actually a parable that Lencioni uses to teach you his theory about what makes a job situation rewarding or miserable. The three signs of a miserable job don’t have anything to do with the actual tasks you perform. They are anonymity, irrelevance and immeasurement. His theory seems like basic common sense, yet at the same time it is so revolutionary because no one does it. It was a quick, fun read and completely changed how I view my job, and how I will examine potential jobs in the future.
If You Can’t Lose It, Decorate It by Anita Renfroe (2 Stars)
God bless Anita Renfroe. I really like her stand-up. (Renfroe is a Christian comedienne, known on YouTube for her “Mom’s Overture”, sung to the tune of the William Tell Overture.) She’s hilarious, but reading a joke is not the same as someone telling you a joke. It leaves something to be desired. The theme of this book is the serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. In other words, if you can’t lose it (change it), decorate it (change your attitude towards it). It’s a nice idea, but she doesn’t delve very deep into it, but then again I think it is supposed to be a light, encouraging read, so I shouldn’t have been expecting a heavy spiritual dissertation. I tried to take it for what it was, but ended up just wanting something more substantial. Then, to make matters worse, I actually got offended, when she disdainfully ridiculed the Christian financial advisors and what they suggest you do to manage your money and get out of debt. Speaking as someone who has gone through one of these courses and found life-changing freedom from debt, it really rubbed me the wrong way. In short – skip the book, see her stand-up show instead.
The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite, written by Gerard Way, illustrated by Gabriel Ba, colored by Dave Stewart, cover art by James Jean (5 Stars)
If you read that title and wondered why so many people are listed as contributors, then you are more than likely not a comic book geek. If you are a comic book geek, then you probably recognized a couple of those award-winning names. Yeah, this is a comic book series, but reading it is just as rewarding as reading any other form of literature, so I’m including it in my “book bites”. However, I’m not going to do a full review of this one just yet, because the series isn’t complete. We’re on the 3rd installation of a 6-part series. I just wanted to explain why it’s already getting a “5-star” rating (because I love the story so far) but won’t be getting a full review until later, when the full arc of the story is complete.
I can’t wait to see how the story ends and I absolutely love that feeling of anticipation. It’s what good fiction is all about.
Friday, December 07, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
Ever since I was little, I wanted to write and illustrate children's books. My goal to be a writer and illustrator is still alive...albeit barely. If only there were more hours in the day, and more discipline in my nature...
I may be "all grown up" but to this day, I still love fairy tales and collect children's books and fairy tale books, especially if they are old or exhibit amazing artwork. Some of my favorite illustrators are Michael Hague (my favorite collection is pictured to the the right), Maurice Sendak, Arthur Rackham and Maxfield Parish.
The reason I bring this all up is because I wanted to share this cool article I stumbled across today, that discusses the history of children's book illustrations. Check it out!
And if you have time, leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite storybook was when you were growing up as a child. My favorites were "The Little Mermaid" (NOT the Disney version) and "Snow White and Rose Red" (bet you didn't know Snow White had a sister). I've linked to the versions of these books/stories that I own. The illustrations for the Little Mermaid book are absolutely gorgeous!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
- The Office writers talk about the strike.
- Find out when your favorite TV shows will go dark.
- LOST writer Damon Lindelof’s op ed piece about the strike.
- Find out what “force majeure” means (hint - it’s not good).
Additionally, this month is NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month (but NaNoWriMo is more fun to say, isn’t it?). It’s an annual novel writing project where both professional and amateur writers from all over the world are challenged to write a 175-page (50,000 word) novel, starting November 1st and ending on midnight, November 30th. I have not accepted this challenge, but their gung-ho enthusiasm has been inspiring.
Last but not least, this month is also the one year anniversary of this humble little blog. As I looked back over my year’s worth of posts, I have decided my writing goals for the new year will be as follows:
1. Write more articles and less lists, even though I love making lists (case in point). In fact, did you know there is a blog dedicated solely to lists? The blogger even has a book out now, based on the lists.
2. Stick more to my purpose for this blog and write about the things I love (music, art, film, literature, etc.) instead of my everyday life. I don’t want this to turn into an autobiographical navel-gazing type thing. I get bored when I read about myself and the last thing I want to do is bore people.
3. Post more regularly and consistently. I was thinking about committing to deadlines, such as posting on every Tuesday and Thursday. That way, Loyal Readers, you will know what days to come check out the blog.
All this talk of writing has inspired me and I’m off to go work on a short story. In the meantime, leave me a comment and let me know what show you will miss the most during the strike OR let me know if you’ve taken up the NaNoWriMo challenge OR let me know any suggestions you may have for this blog. There’s your assignment – so get writing!
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
An October Night
by Charles Audette
The wind whispers
A wary warning
There was plenty, still
Early this morning
These primal urges
Are hard to fight
An unholy diet
A dark appetite
The pavement scrapes
With scuttling leaves
I'll pull the drapes
And hope to deceive
The moon suffocates
In ominous clouds
Shut off the lights
Heartbeats too loud
Then the neighbor's gate creaks
But it's not the wind
That seeks to feast
On fearing humans
Red brake lights
A car crawls by slow
The shadowy shapes
On my dark doorstep know
That the empty window
Of my house lies.
The horrible truth
Hides deep inside
Could have been just dandy
But now the demons have wrath -
Cause I ate all the candy!
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Here is the motley roll call of party attendees: the royal lord and lady, the goddess Athena, a Dharma workman (my husband), Edgar Allan Poe's Raven (me), a sorceress, a KISS fan, a dead bride, two serial killers (they look just like everyone else), a pumpkin princess and "Daddy's Little Monster" (Kat and Chris' little boy in a cute Halloween t-shirt with that title). Those of you who watch LOST will understand my husband's Dharma workman costume.
We munched on wonderful goodies, such as "deviled" eggs, a "decrepit" cheese log with black crackers, drank witch's brew and got carnivoristic on some barbecue ribs. For desert we had carmel apples and I made a cake in the shape of a witch's spell book. Yum!
Of course, no K&C Halloween party would be complete without some party games. We played Pass the Apple (no hands), Spider Toes (my feet have never been so cold!) and Lupus in Tabula (i.e. Wolves at the Table - an old German party game, which has been turned into a card game.) We had a great time (although I don't think K&C's dogs were thrilled with the festivities) and everyone went home with a little gift.
To top it all off, on our way home, we saw the most beautiful harvest moon. It was a spook-tacular day. Thanks to Kat and Chris for making my favorite holiday extra-fun! For you loyal blog readers, leave me a comment and let me know if you went to any parties this weekend, or what your plans are for Halloween.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
1. I can't remember the last time I used my stove. Seriously. Although I will be using it tomorrow, because I have to make a cake for my friend's Halloween party. The stove is actually my mom's - when she sold her house, she didn't want to let her nice flat glass top stove go with it, so we switched it out with our ancient stove. It's a nice stove. It's a shame it doesn't see more use.
2. We need a new garbage disposal. It's been dead for a while.
3. I always dreamed of having a kitchen that had windows above the sink, so you could at least have a nice view and blissfully daydream while you did dishes. Coincidentally, this house has that. Bad news is it doesn't make doing the dishes any more bearable. I hate doing dishes almost as much as I hate cooking, if not more.
4. Contents of the freezer: a pint of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia, a pint of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, a reusable ice pack, a couple of ancient foil-wrapped packets, probably containing freezer-burned hamburger.
5. Contents of the refrigerator: cans of soda, milk, a take-out container of leftovers, various condiments, one lonely apple, a jar of pickles.
6. I have a collection of ceramic teapots and teacups, including a teacup and saucer I got in London. (The best tea I EVER had was in London.) I love tea and actually have an electric teapot instead of a coffeemaker.
7. In one of the cabinets is a raclette. Our friend Sylvie, who is from France, hosted a raclette dinner for us and we loved it. She ended up buying the raclette for us last Christmas and we've used it a couple times. It's a great way to host a dinner party because you don't have to cook. You just prep the food and all the guests cook their own. You can read more about it here.
8. My favorite thing about my kitchen is all the pictures on my refrigerator of my friends and their kids. :-)
Whew! It was hard to come up with eight things. Now I tag Kathleen and Elizabeth!
Saturday, October 20, 2007
TOP 13 FAVORITE VAMPIRE MOVIES
1. Nosferatu (1922)
2. Dracula (1931 w/ Bela Lugosi)
3. Shadow of the Vampire
4. The Lost Boys
5. 30 Days of Night
6. John Carpenter's Vampires
7. The Fearless Vampire Killers
8. Dracula (1958 w/ Christopher Lee)
9. Fright Night
10. Vampire’s Kiss
11. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
12. The Blade Trilogy
13. Underworld: Evolution
I also thought I'd include some of my biggest vampire movie disappointments, since I know these movies will immediately come to mind and you'll wonder why they didn't make my list.
VAMPIRE MOVIES THAT SUCK:
From Dusk ‘til Dawn
I love Quentin Tarantino. I love Robert Rodriguez. But I guess neither one was meant to make a horror movie. I must say that I really enjoy the first 30 minutes of the film which, ironically, has nothing to do with vampires. Quentin's dysfunctional criminal character is scarier than any of the vampires that show up later.
Interview with the Vampire
Don't even get me started on this movie. This is a film based on one of my all-time favorite books, so maybe it was doomed from the start as far as my expectations are concerned, but come on - Brad Pitt? Tom Cruise? The only three compliments I can give to the film is 1. Kristen Dunst is amazing as Claudia, 2. Antonio Banderas makes a better vampire than Brad and Tom put together and 3. its fairly faithful to the novel as far as plotline goes.
Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula
Yes, this one makes the list, even though I’m a big fan of Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins and Winona Ryder. Don't even get me started on this movie either. I sat in line for hours to see the first showing on opening weekend, I was so excited, then found myself wanting to get up and walk-out during the middle of the film, I was so unhappy. What a tragic mess.
It's the year 2000 and we still can't make a decent, scary movie vampires? I had such hopes. Although their revelation of Dracula’s ‘true” identity was very creative and an intriguing idea.
Again, I had high hopes, as the previews for this movie looked awesome. Unfortunately, the only thing the vampires in this film do is stand around and pose in the latest goth club wear. Oh, and their eyes turn blue. (yawn) The best thing about this movie was Bill Nighy as the creepy master vampire. He was intimidating and scary. I did like the back story about the werewolves and the vampires. Too bad the werewolves got all the cool fight scenes and supernatural powers. The only supernatural power the vampires had was Kate Beckingsale in skin-tight latex.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
This Saturday, October 20th, the AMC movie channel (DirecTV channel 254) will be running an Alfred Hitchcock movie marathon all day. The marathon includes some of my favorites, such as The Trouble with Harry, Rear Window and Psycho. Here's the full schedule for the day on the AMC website.
Hitchcock was an amazing, innovative director who really knew how to tell a story. I always enjoyed his movies, but gained an even deeper appreciation for his artistry after taking a film class in college. Pure genius.
I also loved watching his TV show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, in re-runs as a kid, and have discovered they've found a new life on the Chiller channel (DirecTV channel 257).
Anyway, you know what I'll be doing this Saturday! Leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite Hitchcock movie is!
Friday, October 12, 2007
13 Bullets by David Wellington (3 Stars)
Detective Arkeley and his partner destroyed all vampires several years ago. All of them except their queen, who was locked up in solitary confinement. Flashforward several years to present day and it seems the vampires are coming back on the scene. The retired detective is called back into service to help a small town cop fight them off and solve the mystery of how they are being made. This book had lots of fun fast-paced action and a unique take on the nature of the vampire monster. Detective Arkeley seems to have stepped right out of a film noir detective movie. I was interested in his hard-boiled character and wanted more of him, and less of the main character, the small town cop. I had a hard time connecting with her, identifying with her or just plain being interested in her. The plot was pretty basic and thin, and I saw the resolution from about a mile away. This book really annoyed me though, because of the abrupt, unsatisfactory ending, which I complained about in another post.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K.Rowling (5 Stars)
I can't imagine the pressure J.K. Rowling was under to finish her story in a way that was satisfying both for her as a writer and for her loyal fans. I'm pleased to say she delivered. The final book was bittersweet, in that it was an end to the magic. I'll admit, I cried in a couple of places. I was deeply satisfied with the choices she made with one character arc in particular. She did exactly what I was wanting her to do with that character. I'm being ambiguous with my comments so as not to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn't read it. Feel free to hop over to the comments and I'll chat in more detail with you about it if you like.
Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (3 Stars)
So...when I picked this book up in the bookstore bin, I had no idea it was "young adult/teen" fiction. I quickly found out though. I couldn't help but wonder, "Was I this melodramatic and moody as a teenage girl?" I didn't care for the teen/angst romance plot line, but the werewolf mythology the author created was really interesting and she played off of the idea of wolf packs which was cool. (It's amazing how a pack of teenage boys can be eerily similar to a pack of wolves.) In short, I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. I'm contemplating renting the movie adaptation to see how different it is from the book.
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman (5 Stars)
I'll admit my bias upfront, I am in love with Neil Gaiman's work. This is a collection of his short stories. He writes sci-fi/fantasy stories, some with dark, horror undertones, all of which are imaginative and great, but the works I love the most are his adult fairy tales. My favorite stories in this collection are ""Chivalry" (about a little old lady who finds the Holy Grail in an antique store), "The Troll Bridge" (a re-telling of the three billy goats gruff fairy tale), "The White Road" (a re-telling of the Mr. Fox fairy tales), "We Can Get Them For You Wholesale" (a dark story about a man who hires a hitman and things get out of hand), and "Snow, Glass, Apples" (a dark re-telling of Snow White that has changed my view of the story forever.) Some of the stories have H.P. Lovecraft influences which was fun. There are also a couple of stories that don't seem to work, that frankly, I wish I could have skipped. But all in all Gaiman's joy in writing is infectious as you read his work. His imagination and wry humor are so entertaining. I can't get enough. (By the way, he writes a very witty blog - there's a link to it on my blog list.)
The Devil and Miss Prym: A Novel of Temptation by Paulo Coelho (3 Stars)
A stranger comes to a small town with a tempting proposition for the townsfolk. He is in search for an answer to the question, "Are human beings in, essence, good or evil?" and hopes to find his answer with his dangerous proposition. This novel was an interesting exercise, but the problem with the book is the characters are all allegories for Good and Evil and it's obvious. So you don't really care what happens to them. It was like reading a long philosophical dissertation on God and the nature of humans, with a long illustration to accompany it. It was lacking when it came to literary graces or beauty or even interesting language.
Additionally annoying, was the habit the author had of throwing out different arguments or statements, but then not exploring them, or supporting them. He would just statement them and move on. The characters all have these weird discussions/arguments that seem like their only purpose is to raise a bunch of philosophical questions that seem connected to the main theme of the book but then are never answered and don't really affect the outcome of the story in the long run. So why bother having them?
Whew! That's all my book bites for now. I need to try and stay on top of these and write them as I finish each book, so I don't have another marathon post like this one! Leave me a comment and let me know what you've been reading lately, or if you've also read one of these books, let me know what you thought about them.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
It isn't hard to find
You can have the love you need to live
But if you look for truthfulness
You might just as well be blind
It always seems to be so hard to give
Honesty is such a lonely word
Everyone is so untrue
Honesty is hardly ever heard
And mostly what I need from you"
- Lyrics from the song "Honesty" by Billy Joel.
At the beginning of the summer, I wrote a post about Honesty in the Arts and called it "Part 1" of a two-part article. However, the discussion in the comments section didn't light up as I'd hoped it would, and so I didn't pursue writing part 2 for fear of a lack of interest by my readers. But the O.C. part of me just couldn't let there be a part 1 in the blogosphere without there being a part 2 to accompany it. So here we go...
In Part 1, I talked about Honesty in music, literature, art, etc., especially when it comes to writing fiction. It takes a lot of courage and a willingness to be vulnerable with your own feelings in order to translate honest, real emotions into your characters, as well as true strengths and true flaws. If you can challenge yourself to do that, I do think it pays off in compelling, affecting writing.
Since writing that post, I've been striving for more honesty in my own creative writing and am pleased to say I think I've written my first piece, a small poem, that truly accomplishes that goal of honesty in a way I never have achieved before in my written work. It was no small victory, and it stung a little, to be that transparent, but it was also very freeing and rewarding.
Speaking about honesty in the arts is one thing, but what about honesty in real life? It can be life changing: honesty among your co-workers, your friends, your family, your spouse. Honesty includes within it the ideals of sincerity, honor, trust, fairness, straightforwardness and integrity.
It is such a blessing when you have people in your life who are willing to be honest with you. How precious is that close friend who is willing to lay it on the line and be honest with you, even if she knows it is not what you want to hear. She will say it anyway, because she cares about you and wants the best for you.
It may be cliche, but it is true, that an honest mechanic, an honest accountant, an honest lawyer or an honest politician is a rare find and is to be greatly valued. What about an experience at work, such as a performance review, where your boss was so honest and fair that not only was it refreshing but enlightening? Maybe it was a cause for you to change your work habits and strive harder or was a cause to celebrate in knowing your hard work was appreciated.
Honesty in a marriage is essential. What a relief to know you can be honest with that one person, without fear of rejection or ridicule, knowing that he will take the time to understand you and your feelings.
And how hurtful is it when someone isn't honest and doesn't hold up to their word or deceives you? Especially when it is someone close to you.
Sometimes it's hard to be honest, because it might mean admitting to a fear or a weakness, but I have found, for the most part, it is all the more rewarding to take that leap and dare to be transparent and open with someone. Relationships have grown by leaps and bounds in those little conversations.
So there you are...part 2...some rambling thoughts on the nature of honesty (in real life) and the blessings and risks that come with it.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
My favorite quote from the show - it's hard to pick just one - but for right now, I appreciate this quote from Pam:
"I don't think it would be the worst thing if they let me go, because...well...it's just...I don't think it's many girls' dream to be a receptionist."
My favorite prank Jim pulled on Dwight? That one is also hard to choose but I would say the top 3 are:
1. when Jim was sending Dwight faxes from himself from the future,
2. when Jim relocated Dwight's desk to the bathroom, or
3. when Jim convinced Dwight he had mind powers.
Oh, and a runner-up? When Jim convinced Dwight he was turning into a vampire. Classic.
Do you watch the show? If so, what's your favorite quote from the show? What's your favorite Jim/Dwight prank? Your favorite moment or favorite episode? Leave me a comment and let me know. I'll pay you one Schrutebuck or ten Stanley Nickels for every comment left! :P
Sunday, September 23, 2007
For symphonic or scored soundtracks I like composers: John Williams (of course - the themes from Star Wars, Jaws, Superman and Indiana Jones are classics), Danny Elfman (Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow), Philip Glass (The Illusionist, Dracula) and many more.
There's so many to chose from, but for soundtracks of pop/rock music compiled from various artists for a film, I love the Good Will Hunting soundtrack, The Crow and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou.
Also, have you ever noticed that sometimes the soundtrack is far superior than the movie? One example would be the Underworld soundtrack (featuring David Bowie, Trust Company, A Perfect Circle). Awesome soundtrack, disappointing flick.
So what about you? Have you ever been sitting in a theater, watching a movie for the first time, noticed the soundtrack and thought to yourself, "I must go buy this soundtrack as soon as the movie is over!" (Happened to me with Sleepy Hollow, the Illusionist and the 2nd Pirates of the Caribbean movie.) What's your favorite movie soundtrack? Do you have a favorite composer? What instance do you know of where the soundtrack was better than the movie? Leave me a comment and let me know.
By the way, for those of you who assumed from the title of this post that it was going to be about Radiohead...sorry. To get your Radiohead fix, I invite you to go here and listen to the song "Exit Music (For A Film)". The song was on the Romeo + Juliet (1996) soundtrack and was the only good thing about that film (it played over the end credits). In fact, the song captures the emotion of the whole Romeo and Juliet story in a pretty powerful way. I'm mezmorized every time I hear the song. What's interesting is that the user who made this video for YouTube used footage from the famous 1968 version of Romeo & Juliet. They must have not liked Baz Luhrman's movie either.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
If ye be a sea-fearin' landlover, then I might be suggestin' you read this here tome. It has e'ry blastin' thing ye needs must know to lay tongue liker authentic pirate, by the devil's twisted tail. It has a noble place on me bookshelf. (Yeah, I own it. I'm a language-nerd. I'll admit it.) Ye may plunk down 5 gold doubloons at the mighty Amazon to acquire it!
Fer today, I be "Black Charity Flint," the bonniest lass ever to sail the seven seas. Find yer true pirate name, by taking this here quiz. Here's what the bloody thing said about me...
"Black Charity Flint
Like anyone confronted with the harshness of robbery on the high seas, you can be pessimistic at times. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!"
Yo ho, yo ho - a pirate's life for me!
Post Script - If any of ye scalawags dare to challenge me to a game of Dread Pirate - just say the word. I'll blast you to Davy Jones' locker!
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Recently, an eighth-grade boy was suspended from school for five days (later reduced to three days) for sketching a picture of a gun. You can read the news story here. Not many details were provided, in order to properly judge this situation but, it was said the drawing did not depict blood, injuries, bullets or any human targets. They said it was just a drawing that resembled a gun. The boy said it was actually an imaginary laser gun. The school will not release the picture to the boy's family or the public so we can't see it and judge for ourselves. (Which, in my humble opinion, is suspect. What is there to hide?) According to the student, he had finished his classwork early and was doodling on the back of his worksheet. When the teacher asked for the work to be turned in, she discovered the doodle, and the boy was suspended under the school's "no tolerance" gun/violence policy.
Now, I'm not naive. I recognize that we live in the age of Columbine and Virginia Tech. I understand that school administrators need to be vigilant. But where is the common sense and rational thought in the handling of this incident? Five-days suspension? For a drawing? That seems a bit extreme. Was the drawing accompanied with a threat? Did he say, "My dad has one of these at home and I'm going to bring it to school?" I think there is a big difference between a doodle done on the margin or backside of a paper to pass the time, than a note deliberately being handed to a teacher or student with a threat directed at them. What was the intent behind it? Did the student have prior incidents of violence or trouble-making? Did they talk to the boy and ask him what his intent was behind the drawing? Did they explain to him how drawings like that could be misunderstood, in this current school climate of super-sensitivity to these issues?
Some of the online blog and message board responses to this incident have been quite humorous. Here are a few of the comments that made me laugh, but also made a good point in showing the ridiculousness of the matter:
“The question is, was the drawing of the 'gun' loaded?”
"Guns don't kill people, pictures of guns do!"
"If he drew two cars crashing, should his license be suspended until he's 18? "
My brother drew pictures of guns and planes dropping bombs and army tanks when he was a kid, that didn't mean he wanted to blow up the school or hijack a tank. It didn't mean he was violent either.
I've created some...shall we call it "interesting"...art in my time, especially in high school. I'm sure in this day and age I would have been sent to the principal's office or the school psychiatrist based on those images. At the time, art was my only outlet for expressing the emotions that I couldn't express verbally. Things like the frustration over my inability to get along with my mother, as well as many of those other teenage traumas we all go through, unrequited crushes and the like, were expressed in my art through ugly monsters with swords through their chests, a wild girl smashing broken and bleeding hearts, weird graveyards and other oddities. It didn't mean I was violent or satanic. It just meant I was like any other melodramatic teenager, trying to make sense of my world.
When someone looks at a painting, they bring their own experience, views and personal tastes to the viewing of that piece. Sure, the artist has a message they are probably trying to convey and the visual media is a relatively universal language. However, to assume you know exactly what the artist meant, and then to further assume the artist's potential for future actions based on that one work...I don't know. That just seems like a bit of a stretch to me. Whether you're talking about a piece of fine art or a school boy's doodle.
Here's what it all comes down to. Is a picture just a picture? Or can art really be dangerous? More specifically, can you predict a person's future actions by observing their art? (Can you say, Pre-Crime boys and girls?) What do you think?
P.S. Stephen King wrote an interesting article on this same subject (connecting violent art to violent acts) after the Virginia Tech shootings. You can read the article, called "Predicting Violence" here.
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Saturday, August 04, 2007
I've been listening to Pandora for a few weeks now. It's a free Internet radio station, that plays music that is customized to your tastes. You can make different personalized radio stations for yourself and, using the Music Genome Project, the system suggests other bands/artists that you may not have heard of, which you can rate your like/dislike of, and thus further customize your station.
Out of curiosity, I looked up the defining parameters that Pandora was using to pick my music, and was pleased and a little surprised at what it said about my musical tastes. Here's the qualities it said I look for in my music (obviously not all in the same song - otherwise that would be a really weird song):
Subtle use of vocal harmony
Minor key tonality
Dynamic male vocalist
Subtle use of strings
Songs that feature hard rock roots
Varying tempo and time signatures
Electric rock instrumentation
Electric guitar wall-o-sound
Mild rhythmic syncopation
Intricate melodic phrasing
Acoustic rhythm guitars
Electric rhythm guitars
Acoustic rhythm piano
Mellow rock instrumentation
When people ask me what kind of music I like, I always have such a hard time answering that question. So now I think I will just print out this list and show it to them when they ask me that question. :) Anyway, I just found this interesting and thought I would share...
Do you listen to Pandora? Leave a comment and let me know what it's saying about your musical preferences. Or just leave me a comment and let me know what kind of music you like.
(By the way, the image of Pandora that I used to illustrate this post is a painting by one of my all-time favorite artists, a Pre-Raphelite painter named J.W. Waterhouse. You can see more of his artwork here.)
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
I’ve read two books recently and both of them, to varying degrees, had unsatisfactory endings. I really enjoyed The Town that Forgot How to Breathe, but right at the peak of the plot’s climax, it just ended. Thankfully, there was an “Afterward” chapter, that summed things up a little, but it still didn’t answer all the questions I had. It was as if I had gotten to know all these interesting characters, but then didn’t have a chance to tell them “bye”. In this case, I think the author was trying to be artsy.
In the other book I just finished, 13 Bullets, the book ended in the middle of a scene. It was so abrupt; I actually checked the binding because I thought someone had ripped out the last few pages. Then when I thought about it, I realized that maybe the author was trying to be edgy. Also, I have a sneaky suspicion he left the story blatantly open in order to turn the book into a series. In fact, the more I thought about it, I decided that was the case. There hasn’t been a segueway cliffhanger as obvious as this one since the “Han Solo encased in carbonite” bit from the Empire Strikes Back. In my humble opinion, even if you want to turn a book into a series, each book should stand complete on its own. This one definitely didn’t do that. No satisfactory ending. I felt ripped off. Like I had just gone on this long journey, only to find out there was no purpose to it.
(Needless to say, I’ve been learning what not to do, when I go to write my own novel. So I guess there was something to be gained from both of these reading experiences.)
Now that the final Harry Potter book has come out, I’m even more nervous. If there was ever pressure from a zillion fans, to craft a satisfactory end to their favorite series – whew – I sure am glad I’m not J.K. Rowling. Writing is hard enough without all that external pressure. I just hope she doesn’t take a cop-out ending and that whatever happens to Harry and the gang, the ending is fulfilling, satisfactory and nothing is left unresolved.
On that note, I’m off to try and finish reading Deathly Hallows so I can discuss it with my friends. While I’m doing that, I invite you to leave me a comment and let me know what book or movie you really enjoyed, but left you with a bad taste in your mouth because of the crummy ending.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Peanut M&Ms are awesome in their yummy simplicity. However, they are even more tasty when consumed in a dark movie theater, as you watch a totally mindless, CGI-heavy, summer action movie. (See my movie listings to the right, to guess which film I'm referring to.)
My husband imitating the lead singer of Maroon 5, as we sang along with their new hit single in the car. This one didn't just make me smile, it made me laugh myself silly. I think you could file this one under the "you just had to be there" category. For your viewing pleasure, here's a link to the music video for "Makes Me Wonder", although I must say, my husband's rendition was more amusing.
Getting e-mail from my friends is always the highlight of my day. Some days my inbox is so lonely, and I pine for an e-mail, like a man in the desert, dying of thirst. (Okay, that was a bit dramatic.) Other days, it seems like everyone is online and the e-mails come flooding in. What would we do without e-mail?
Jack White's blistering guitar riff on the White Stripes' new single, "Icky Thump" is just too cool. When I put the CD in, I have to hit repeat on it a dozen or so times, because I just can't get enough of that guitar. Haven't heard the song yet? Then click here for the music video, which is a little weird - but most of their videos are. Just enjoy the music.
A whole hour of uninterrupted reading time is a beautiful thing. I'm lucky to have an hour long break for lunch at work, and my building has a nice atrium area in the lobby with comfy seating. It's a perfect reading environment. I am always so reluctant and sad, when I have to snap back to reality and go back to work.
Flight of the Conchords follows the trials and tribulations of a two man, digi-folk band from New Zealand as they try to make a name for themselves in their adopted home of New York City. This show always makes me laugh. Imagine if Weird Al and Saturday Night Live joined together to create a skit comedy show with parody songs that fit into the plot. Hard to explain. Hilarious to watch. Check it out.
Pandora Radio is addictive. It's a free Internet radio station, that plays music that is customized to your tastes. You can make different personalized radio stations for yourself and, using the Music Genome Project, the system suggests other bands/artists that you may not have heard of, that fit your musical tastes. I love my Sirius radio. I might love Pandora Radio more.
I feel so blessed and humbled to be a part of my church family. The people there don't just talk the talk, they walk the walk. Steeped in prayer, thirsty for God's Word, always striving for unity, yet celebrating our diversity, with love always threaded through everything they do - I have never seen a love like this in action before. It makes me think of the worship song that goes, "They will know we our Christians by our love..." Simple, but powerful.
Leave me a comment and let me know what some of your favorite things are this week!
Friday, June 22, 2007
I’ve been thinking a lot about honesty lately. Have you ever noticed that some of the most moving literature, the most powerful music, the most touching works of art, the most memorable movies, all have honesty as a key component? Whatever subject matter or storyline, there is truth or honesty behind what they are trying to convey.
I was listening to one of my favorite CDs recently, trying to analyze why I have such a deep emotional reaction to it, practically every time I listen to it. Why is it so powerful? Why does it move me that way? I think it’s because the artists are willing to bare their souls and be honest, about their fears, their anger, their hope, and the music and lyrics reflect that and I, in turn, connect to it.
For example, there have been several songs made over the years, dealing with the loss of a loved one, such as Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” and Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” which, don’t get me wrong, are very well-crafted songs that come from an honest place of loss and are beautiful in their own right. However, this same band, MCR, has a song about losing someone, called “Cancer”, which rocks me to my knees every time I hear it, in a way that those songs never have. Is it because the music composition is better or more complex? No. Is it because the lead singer’s voice is better than Eric or Sarah’s? No. I think the reason is this – that MCR is brutally honest about losing someone. There’s no gilded harps playing in the background, no talk of angels, but just a bare hospital room and the terrible hurt of having to say goodbye.*
You can tell the difference too, between artists who are willing to be honest, versus those who just have a clever idea, or a catchy hook of a lyric, and are trying to cash in on a look, or certain aesthetic, but there’s no honesty behind what they are doing. It’s all just face-paint and flashy costumes and a desire to be successful and famous. We’ve all watched actors that were completely unbelievable on screen and we all roll our eyes not believing a word of it when he tells his co-star he loves her. (You could almost hear him thinking to himself, “Do I look good in this scene?”) While on the other hand, we’ve seen other actors willing to sacrifice and reach into a part of themselves and be willing to be honest about it and express it on screen. Those are the movies that connect with us and that we still talk about years later.
I’ve also found that the genre or setting doesn’t make any difference. A piece of art doesn’t have to be set in clear-cut reality to be effective. It doesn't matter if it’s a band singing about a mysterious parade or if it’s a movie with weird mythological creatures involved or if the novel is set on a futuristic planet or whatever; there is a heart to every work of art. And if the creator of that work of art is willing to reveal honest, true feelings, I think that's the part that really makes it powerful and connects with people. But at the same time, it takes such courage, to bare those emotions as an artist. (Speaking from experience...)
As I have been working on my own personal fiction writing, it has become apparent to me that I need to be honest with my characters and their behaviors and emotions, and quit hiding behind cool ideas, interesting plot twists and beautiful phrasing. When I listen to that CD, and it moves me to tears like it always does, I say to myself "I want my writing to be like that." Or when I watch a movie that really affects me, I think “I want my writing to affect people like that.” Or when I watch my favorite TV show, and care so much about the characters, I think “I want my characters to connect with people like that.”
It takes a lot of courage and a willingness to be vulnerable with your feelings to translate honest, real emotions into your characters, as well as true strengths and true flaws, but I think it definitely pays off in compelling, affecting writing. Honesty in my creative writing – yep, that’s going to be a big challenge for me…
What is a piece of art (book, movie, painting, song, etc.) that moves you every time to watch/read/listen to it? Why do you think you connect to it so strongly? Leave me a note in the comments section…I’d love to discuss this further. By the way, part 2 of this article (to be posted later) is about honesty in life and relationships. So for now, let’s stick to talking about honesty in art.
*(Aside: What’s interesting, is I know some people who would listen to “Cancer” and call it cliché, while saying “Angel” is the song that has the more real, honest emotion. Is it because of our different levels of experience? If we’ve been through something, we have that sympathetic reverberation in our hearts, when we hear someone stating the truth about that experience. Or is it that we may have the same feelings of loss, but express it in different ways? So what may speak to one person’s heart, may not to another, yet both works are being honest. I guess that’s what’s awesome about the arts…they are so varied in their ways of communicating and connecting to people.)
Thursday, May 31, 2007
The phrase "blue moon," does not refer to the color of the moon, but instead is the name given to the second full moon in the same month. Since the occurrence is rare, it makes sense that it is where we got our phrase "once in a blue moon" from (which is slang for "very rarely.")
In honor of tonight's blue moon, I just have to post a link for my favorite oldies song, "Blue Moon" by the Marcels. Check out the song here, but don't bother watching the video; it's incorrect, distracting and cheesy. And if you have time tonight, go out and take a gander at that beautiful blue moon!
Saturday, May 26, 2007
by Kenneth J. Harvey
I just finished reading this book over the long weekend and thought I'd give you a quick review. A "book bite," if you will...
The book starts out with a man and his daughter arriving at a Newfoundland fishing wharf to spend their summer vacation. And like any good thriller, things don't stay "normal" for long. The little girl finds a creepy playmate, villagers start seeing strange things in the ocean, then... people start forgetting how to breathe...
Harvey creates a strange combination of fairy tales, tall tales or "seafarer" tales, a Lovecraft-esqe thriller/horror story, with people going insane (or forgetting how to breathe) and a commentary on how some small town cultures or lifestyles are dying because of technology. It sounds like a weird combination, but it works, and all the strands are tied together in the end, in a fairly satisfying way.
My favorite part of this book, is the idea that the act of storytelling is what keeps generations connected to each other and keeps the wonder in nature and life alive. I also loved the romantic twist to everything, once he tied all the plot strands together and resolved the mystery. In the end, it all comes down to love...
I've been meaning to write a post on the importance of fairy tales, the art of storytelling and the power of the story, and reading this book only inspired me even more to write those posts. So watch for those in the future...
I think I will do these short, "Book Bites" here on my blog and I hope to write longer, more in-depth reviews and post those on my website (whenever I get it revamped and up and running to my satisfaction). Until then...
Thursday, May 24, 2007
I feel very fortunate that I grew up in a home filled with laughter. We were always trying to find ways to make each other laugh. My dad had a great sense of humor (as evidenced by the self-deprecating picture you see here). He enjoyed it all - from funny stories, to goofy sight gags and well-constructed jokes - especially if it included a pun. In fact, he absolutely loved puns.
May 25th was my father's birthday. I feel like there's less laughter in my life, ever since he's been gone. To honor him today, I'm going to try and find the humor in things, and make my heart light. And I'm going to try to remember that's how he'd want me to go through life, laughing at the daily ironies and all, instead of seeing the melancholy side of things.
I thought I'd include a link, to some "punny" jokes for you as well. What is your favorite joke or pun? I invite you to post it in the comments and give us all a good laugh. Or, if you like, you can talk about what you think were some of the best qualities you got from your dad.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
A while back I did a post on my favorite TV show "LOST" - which is still my favorite show - but "24" with Kiefer Sutherland comes in at a close second. Below is a list of Jack Bauer "Facts" that I found online, along with a list I created about "24" fanatics.
JACK BAUER FACT LIST
1. If everyone on "24" followed Jack Bauer's instructions, it would be called "12".
2. Some people see the glass as half full. Others see it as half empty. Jack Bauer sees the glass as a deadly weapon.
3. Once, someone tried to tell Jack Bauer a "knock knock" joke. Jack Bauer found out who was there, who they worked for, and where the bomb was.
4. If Jack Bauer was in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and Nina Meyers, and he had a gun with two bullets, he'd shoot Nina twice.
5. Jack Bauer ran out of bullets, so he caught three in his chest and used them to re-load.
6. Jack Bauer's calendar goes from March 31st to April 2nd. No one fools Jack Bauer.
7. Jack Bauer once forgot where he put his keys. He then spent the next half-hour torturing himself until he gave up the location of the keys.
8. Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas.
9. If it tastes like chicken, looks like chicken, and feels like chicken, but Jack Bauer says its beef. Then it's beef.
10. Osama bin Laden's recent proposal for truce is a direct result of him finding out that Jack Bauer is, in fact, still alive.
YOU KNOW YOU'RE A FAN OF "24" IF...
1. You downloaded the CTU ringer for your cell phone.
2. When your phone rings, you answer with your last name - i.e. "This is Smith."
3. If your spouse calls and asks you to pick them up because their car has broken down, you ask them to upload the schematics and live satellite feed to your palm pilot.
4. When someone asks you what you did yesterday, you reply with "Previously, on 24..."
5. You put "David Palmer" down as a write-in candidate at the last presidential election.
6. You named your pets "Edgar" and "Chloe".
7. You're under the impression that humans don't eat, sleep or use the bathroom for 24 hours at a time
8. When you're running late for an appointment, you hear the "beep, beep, beep" sound in your head and feel like screaming out loud "We're running out of time!"
9. You ordered a CTU logo t-shirt and mouse pad off the 24 website. (Guilty!)
10. All your friends know not to call you during the hours of 8 to 9 PM on Monday nights. :)
Friday, April 20, 2007
Help me Lord cause I don't understand your ways
The reason why I wonder if I'll ever know
But, even if you showed me, the hurt would be the same
Cause I'm still here so far away from home
I close my eyes and I see your face
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
I've never been more homesick than now
- from the song "Homesick" by Mercy Me.
"And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home."
- from the song "If I Stand", by Rich Mullins.
Have you ever been homesick? I don't mean the homesickness of wanting to go back to the house you grew up in, or traveling and wishing you were back in your own bed at home. I mean the homesickness of grieving this world and just longing for heaven - our final, true home.
When Bart Millard of the band Mercy Me was asked about the meaning behind the lyrics of "Homesick" (the song I quoted above) he said he wrote it after his brother-in-law was killed in a car accident. He said, "It talks about getting the raw end of the deal when your loved one passes on and you stay here with the pain of not having them. Of course, having that person as an investment in heaven really makes you homesick all the more. We're just passing through this place, and heaven is our ultimate home."
There are times when I just feel like I can't take this world anymore and just long for heaven, when my life is barraged with loss and everything that is broken and wrong with this sinful, fallen world. Sometimes I just don't understand why we have to stay here and endure it all. Do you ever feel that way? What do you do or what have you found that helps to bring you out of this funky feeling? Is this what Matthew 5 is talking about ("Blessed are those who mourn...")? Drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts.
P.S. Just as I was finishing this post, I read a friend's blog, and discovered he's posting/talking about a very closely related topic. I encourage you to check it out, and participate in that discussion as well.
P.P.S. I thought some of you might be interested in the picture I used above. It is a close-up shot of the Angel of Grief, a 1894 sculpture by William Wetmore Story that he created in memory of his wife Emelyn, and serves as the grave stone for both the artist and his wife at the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, Italy. I think it is a beautiful and unusual piece of sculpture. You can see more pictures of it here.